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I’m not a fan of carrying any more than I have to. Packing for a trip usually involves removing things rather than adding them, continually balancing on the edge of just enough and too little. Some people will question this approach and I really don’t blame them. It certainly appears geeky, maybe foolhardy and on occasion, outright stupid. These days, the desire to carry as little as possible is part personal challenge and part habit but the end result is the same as it ever was … it makes a bike easier to ride and push.

There’s obviously certain things you have to carry and perhaps the most obvious is water, but just how much water? It’s a widely debated topic. Personally, I’ve always managed to survive with a litre or less which isn’t really that much but water’s heavy and I don’t want to carry it. I’m sure you know that a litre of water weighs a kilo but you probably don’t know that a litre of water is heavier than the combined weight of my sleeping bag, bivvy bag and tarp. Now, please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not suggesting that you forgo drinking in order to save weight because that really would be stupid. No, what I’m suggesting is that you collect water as you go in order to reduce what you have to carry. However, if you want to do it 100% safely and not limit your potential water sources, you’ll need to carry a way of ‘cleaning it’.

For the last couple of years, I’ve used a Sawyer Squeeze mini filter with great success. It’s light, easy to pack, removes all the nasties you’re likely to find within Europe, has a long lifespan and is relatively cheap. You might have noticed that I’ve not mentioned easy to use in the above list? That omission may seem a little unfair given that the Sawyer mini is actually very simple with no requirement for a degree in fluid dynamics in order to operate it. Problem is, there can be a very real difference between ‘simple’ and ‘easy’. The Sawyer is certainly simple – you fill the bladder with water, screw the filter on and squeeze the bag. If the water you’re filling the bladder with is reasonably deep and fast flowing, then the process is as simple as it sounds … but what if it’s not? Still water makes filling the bladder difficult, still, shallow water makes it near impossible. There’s always the option of using something to scoop water into the bladder but that’s likely to involve more faff than you probably want to consider. 

You even get a rubber strap to keep it all together.

The Trailshot would appear to be MSR’s answer to the Sawyer mini. While the two share many traits, the Trailshot adds ‘easy’ to the list and not just when conditions are favourable. I’m sure there’s technical differences between the two but from a user’s point of view, the obvious contrast is that while the Sawyer has a reservoir that requires filling, the Trailshot takes its water direct from the source. That might not sound like a big deal but when the only available water is six inches below ground or sat in a half inch deep puddle, it’s the difference between drinking and not.

They say a picture paints a thousand words.

Again, there’s no requirement for further education in order to use it – put the end of the tube into the water. Remove the cap from the filter housing and point the spout towards an open bottle, mouth, etc. Squeeze the filter housing and the pumping action draws water up the tube then forces it through the filter and into whatever receptacle you have to hand. As you can see, it’s not mentally taxing and nor is it physically demanding, so you don’t need forearms like Popeye to achieve the 1 litre/min maximum flow rate. Replacement filter cartridges are available and they have a quoted service life of 2000 litres … however, those of us without a degree are likely to destroy it well before then by leaving it outside to freeze on a winters night.

Pipe has a cleanable pre-filter to prevent sucking up fish or submarines.

On my scales the Trailshot weighs a very respectable 160g, so if you really felt the need you could carry six and they’d still weigh less than a single litre of water. It’s also considerably smaller than a water bottle and has the added bonus of not requiring any special mounting to carry it. If you’re looking for a way of reducing what you carry without resorting to anything too extreme, the Trailshot makes a lot of sense. It’s simple and easy to use, removes both bacteria and protozoa and at £40 or less, it won’t break the bank.


  1. R G says:

    Bought one of these a few weeks back and it's instantly changed how much water I carry on long rides. I used to use a Sawyer, but found it a bit of a pain, especially with a camelbak (I know you can put it inline, but that has its own problems).

    Much happier with only a little water onboard now as I know how easy it is to grab a bit more on the go.

  2. Exactly RG. You're possibly now travelling 2kg lighter but from a practical stand – no worse off.

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